Written by: Meg Medina
Publication Info: 2013, Candlewick
One Line: What starts out as an absurd-seeming threat from a classmate she doesn’t know, Yaqui Delgado, soon takes over teen Piddy Sanchez’s life at her new school.
Brief Plot Summary: A few weeks into the year at her new high school in Queens, sophomore Piddy Sanchez is told by one of her few friends that she heard, “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.” This makes little sense to Piddy, as she does not know who Yaqui Delgado is, but as she starts to find out more about Yaqui, she starts to get more afraid. Piddy used to be a good student, at her old school just a little ways away, and she always used to be kind to her single mom. But it turns out Yaqui
Thoughts: The mood at the beginning of this book is actually light, and the “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass,” seems almost a joke to us and, in fact, to Piddy, as Piddy has never heard of this young woman. However, as the book progresses, and Piddy realizes the danger she’s in, Medina does a great job of darkening the mood as the walls seem to close in on Piddy. Her characterization of Piddy and this change is excellent: from the bright, diligent teen at the beginning, to the almost hunched figure with sharp eyebrows who hides herself in hoodies and seems not to care about her body towards the end. Piddy is, even before the bullying, an interesting and complex young woman, with interests of her own, struggles with identity, and a desire for a better future. Medina also does a great job of conveying the world in which Piddy lives now and has lived, the close-knit Latina community she was a part of. The only small problem is the lack of use of technology that modern teens would be using: while specific technology sometimes dates, it seems odd that Piddy would first try to look for Yaqui's picture in an old yearbook instead of just going to a social network. Piddy does text, so it seems reasonable that she would also use social networks.
The book ultimately becomes a powerful treatise on bullying, as Piddy almost gives up her entire life because of Yaqui. This is an important book, not only for teens but for adults and parents as well, as the way the adults in her life react to her surely does not make things better (despite her “auntie” Lila being very supportive, she doesn’t seem to help fix things). Piddy’s mother reacts to her daughter’s decline in grades, truancy, and bad attitude with anger and fear, instead of exploring what could possibly be going on – and this seems to be the same, at first, with the teachers at the school. It seems that we, as a society, jump to anger instead of concern, when the truth is, when a bright, kind, teen (or person) seems to be falling apart, there is probably a reason, and possibly one we need to probe for. Ultimately, the book is a hopeful one, as Piddy is able to take control – with the eventual help of her mother – and one only wishes she had the support to speak up earlier.
This was the winner of the Pura Belpre award in 2014, and is both an entertaining book with a great central character and a thought-provoking book about the horrors of bullying.
Author Information: From www.megmedina.com: “Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction.
She is the 2014 recipient of the Pura Belpré medal and the 2013 CYBILS Fiction winner for her young adult novel, YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book TIA ISA WANTS A CAR.
Meg’s other books are THE GIRL WHO COULD SILENCE THE WIND, a 2012 Bank Street Best Book and CBI Recommended Read in the UK; and MILAGROS: GIRL FROM AWAY.
Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect through the eyes of young people, and she brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls. In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America.
When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or literacy. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.”